Stories are often cloaked in the illusion of inevitability, making it appear that events were always destined to end in a certain manner. However, history shows that a tweak here and there could have changed the course of affairs.

While reading Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson, I was struck by how precarious the line of succession was prior to Queen Victoria (1819-1901).

Wilson writes: “[t]he princess’s death …triggered a race, among the overweight, late middle-aged sons of [King] George III, to find a lawful wife who could become the next Queen of England, and the mother of future monarchs”.

For a brief time, Queen Victoria’s succession to the throne seemed dubious when “the Duchess of Clarence succeeded in having a second child… who would be before her in line of succession”. However, the baby died at three months of age.

Just as the line of succession appears pre-ordained through a superficial glance, so does the authoring of judicial opinions. Professor Elizabeth Judge states in “Precedent and the Individual Opinion” that:

the judicial writing strategies…of authorizing precedent in support of the tradition deflect attention away from the judicial acts of authoring the individual opinion… the judicial opinion is …marked by a ‘monological voice’, the ‘rhetoric of inevitability’, the ‘rhetoric of compulsion and pedigree’, ‘rhetoric of certainty and inevitability’, a voice that is objective, neutral, impersonal, authoritative, judgment and certain, and a tone of impersonality suggesting that the legal materials themselves rather than the personal desires of the judge, required the result in question.